By Gabriel Romano
Caracollo, Bolivia, Nov 23 (EFE).- Answering a call from Bolivia’s governing leftist MAS party, members of allied organizations and other supporters set out from here Tuesday on a march to La Paz that is meant as a show of strength in the face of recent opposition protests.
Caracollo, a town in the Andean highlands that lies at the intersection of Bolivia’s main north-south and east-west highways, has a long history as a starting point for popular mobilizations.
Present for the start were President Luis Arce, Vice President David Choquehuanca and former head of state Evo Morales, the MAS chairman.
The intent of the march to demonstrate the breadth and depth of support for the Arce government, Morales told thousands of MAS partisans who began arriving in Caracollo by the busload before dawn.
They greeted the sunrise waving MAS banners and the multicolored Wiphala flag that represents Bolivia’s indigenous peoples.
The proceedings got under way with ritual offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth) aimed at ensuring a safe and successful journey.
The plan calls for the procession to cover the roughly 190 km (118 mi) to La Paz next Monday and communities along the route are organizing to provide meals for the participants.
Rolando Borda, an executive with a MAS-affiliated union, told Efe that the initial level of participation “surpassed expectations,” a sign that the march will be truly massive by the time it reaches La Paz.
“Today more than ever we are united … in defense of democracy,” indigenous leader Flora Aguilar said.
In his address to the crowd, Arce described the march as a way of reminding the opposition that it was he who won the 2020 election, which put an end to nearly a year of rule by a “provisional government” in the wake of the military’s forcing Morales from office and into exile in November 2019.
“We say: if they don’t want to respect the vote at the polls, we will make it respected in the streets,” he said, adding that the Bolivian people showed their wisdom when the “resolved the problem of 2019 at the ballot box.”
“Those who have lost at the ballot box, those who have not had the capacity to generate a majority, want to obtain it a different way, that’s why the Bolivian people march today,” the 58-year-old economist said.
Unity, he said, is the “fundamental requisite to maintain the process of change” that began when Morales took office in 2006 as Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
Arce told his supporters to remain vigilant because the “right works to divide the country.”
Various organizations of retailers and transportations workers joined opposition parties last week in a strike to demand that the government revoke an anti-money laundering law.
The Arce administration agreed to undo the measure, yet the unrest continued in some areas and MAS accused the opposition of using the controversial law as a pretext to destabilized the country. EFE